Hot Chip @ O2 Academy, Bristol, 13/10/15

Hot-ChipTonight's sold out Hot Chip gig at the O2 Academy is full of contradictions. While in many ways it feels like a celebration, a culmination of Hot Chip's career to date, in actual fact the band have made strangely little progress since the release of their debut album 10 years ago. They have played this very venue as far back as 2008 and despite releasing several critically acclaimed records since then, they've never really had that one massive hit to catapult them into the stratosphere. In some ways that feels like a blessing - the acoustics of the venue are suited to a group boasting as many ballads as dancefloor fillers - but you're still left wondering quite why they continue to exist on the very fringes of mainstream success.

Still, as a live act they never fail to disappoint, and tonight proves to be no different. The capacity crowd show their delight as the opening vocoded vocals of "Huarache Lights" - the first track from 2015's excellent Why Make Sense? - kick in, and it acts as the precursor to a remarkably strong set list which rams home the consistency of their records over the years. "One Life Stand" is a joyous follow-up track that boasts one of Hot Chip's strongest choruses, and there's some pretty stiff competition for that accolade evidenced by the predictably-euphoric renditions of "Ready for the Floor" and "Over and Over" later in the evening.

Another one of Hot Chip's noticeable contradictions is between the two vocalists Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard. They have always felt like two forces at opposite ends of the musical spectrum who meet somewhere in the middle of Goddard's 90s inspired house beats and Taylor's introspective electro-balladry to create Hot Chip's form of sleek, accomplished pop music. Yet there are times in the set when the differences between the two become ever clearer. Take 2008's Made in the Dark album track "We're Looking for a Lot of Love", which gets an airing during the encore. It's a slow burning love song packed with Taylor's heartfelt lyrics, which is a world away from tracks such as "Night and Day" and "I Feel Better" - two quintessential Goddard tracks that are straight up floorfillers. But it's this contradiction which keeps Hot Chip's studio albums interesting and their live shows so engrossing - ensuring there are enough changes of pace to keep the crowd on their toes throughout.

In their Glastonbury spot headlining the West Holts stage this year - which bassist Owen Clarke reckoned was their highlight of the summer - they closed with a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark", which happily they revive tonight at the Academy. It's a suitably epic closer which since introducing it into their live shows earlier this year has gone down amazingly well (so well, in fact, that they will be releasing their own version of it at the end of the month). And as it segues into LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends", the crowd lapping it up, it once again feels like a real celebration. Maybe they're not quite destined to ever break into the mainstream, but you get the impression they're quite content with playing superb shows like these.


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